>The old power company's office building, if bought, could become the new home for the joint city and county planning, building and environmental health departments
The former Pacific Power business office, vacant since the utility company moved their regional headquarters to Madras, may soon become the property of the county.
   The county is one step closer to purchasing the old PP&L building on N. Court Street - the power company has verbally agreed to a price.
   County Judge Scott Cooper would not disclose what numbers have been agreed to, however. "It's not a done deal," he explained, "there are no dollars on the table. We're just talking ... very positively talk, I might add."
   One of the major parts of that discussion is the agreement that Pacific Power would indemnify the county of any environmental concerns with the property. A few years ago, when PP&L still used the building as the regional headquarters, it had to be evacuated when foul fumes irritated those working in the building.
   The fumes turned out to be part of a much larger problem, contaminated ground water impacting a large portion of the downtown business sector. Since the discovery of the contamination, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials have spent huge sums of money to clean up the problem. Now, according to results from nearly all underground monitoring devices, the contamination has either been removed or has naturally dissipated.
   Another possible point of contamination was also inspected by DEQ specialists when the power company's storage area, behind the building, was vacated. The specialists were looking for any PCBs or other contamination left from having power transformers stored on the site.
   Cooper said he doesn't believe there will be any sort of cleanup needed. The power company has, he noted, already done some work on the facility.
   If the building becomes county property, the plan is to use it for a joint city/county planning and building center. Ultimately, that area would become part of the proposed downtown governmental campus. That proposal involves connecting Elm Street to Court Street by extending Fourth Street between the two.
   The government campus proposal would have the county purchasing all the buildings fronting Third St. between N. Court and N. Dunham St. Recently the county leased the building that used to house a video store and is moving several county departments into that space. Cooper said that)s about as far as the county can go, for a while.
   "We will renew the options on the other buildings in that block," he said, "and continue to look for federal funding."
   But that is in the future. The power company office purchase is the first step in that process. The final purchase is, the judge pointed out, contingent on the county court's approval and on the final inspection for environmental concerns. Hopefully, Cooper added, everything can be worked out and the property can be acquired in the next 60 to 90 days.
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